For many years I worked with an amazing reading teacher from whom I learned more than I can ever say. She is the one who finally convinced me to have the students set up and organize our classroom library. This was something I struggled with as letting go of the control over it was very difficult for me.
(I was finally convinced after spending several weeks with a couple of colleagues reorganizing our school’s reading room. It had grown quickly and significantly and it needed a lot of work. By the end of the time we spent taking it apart and putting it together again I had a whole new view of it. I knew all the resources available to me and where to find them. I realized I would be a far savvier user of the reading room then. That’s when I knew I had to turn the library over to the kids.)
We’ve only just begun the process this year but I am feeling more excited by it than ever. Right now our library is completely covered up so the kids can’t see what is there. I packed up five boxes full of a range of books and we’re opening one a day for each of the first five days of school (four down, one to go). Every student gets to help open one of the boxes. (My 11 year old daughter decorated the boxes for us.) I’ve never done this before and I am so glad I planned for it this year.
After the kids have ripped the paper off (and, sometimes, the box apart in their excitement) we lay out all the books on the carpet. Each box has groups of books. One might have all our books by Kate Messner, some books about animals, all of the Froggy books, our books in Spanish, all of our Take-Along Guide books, etc. There is a mix but the mix is pretty narrow. There is fiction and nonfiction in every box and a range of reading levels. My goal was to help students really see what we have in our library.
By the second day the kids all knew what would be in the box, but it hasn’t decreased the excitement. Once we’ve unpacked them all the kids get to choose some to read. On the first day of school I was amazed to find my third graders reading for more than ten minutes without distraction.
From the beginning I have also been hearing conversations about passing on books. “When you finish that book, can I have it?”
We haven’t started organizing anything and probably won’t for a few more days. Right now we’re building excitement around the books we have. This week we’ll talk about how we find books we want to read. All of our extra books, the ones not in their book boxes, are randomly in tubs in our classroom library. Finding a book is a challenge right now. I’m hoping this will help drive our discussions about how to organize books so that we can find what we want in our library. (I hadn’t planned this, but it fits quite nicely.)
I can’t wait to see what this week holds!